CUNY Research: The Scribbling Business

Posted: March 18, 2012 in Biz, CUNY Research, Incubator
Tags:

Name of Project: Kharabeesh (Scribble)

Country: Jordan

Key Players: Wael Attili (CEO & Co-Founder)

Type: Arab Web Entertainment Network

Founding date: 2005

Website: http://kharabeesh.com/

Facebook Page: https://www.facebook.com/Kharabeesh?sk=info

Twitter Handle: @Kharabeesh

Key Decision: Getting into online entertainment instead of licensing to traditional media

Revenue model: Licensing, Advertisements, Sponsorship and Selling products (games)

Next Steps: Online kids animation channel and another for political cartoons

You do animation that can take four hours in the making, upload it in 10 minutes to the web, get Arab audience to see it and if you win their hearts, you win their money. This is the founding formula of Wael Attili, Founder of Kharabeesh.

With three founders growing to five later and a small team, Kharabeesh rapidly became a boom in the Arab animation industry. Based in Jordan with an Arab focus, the small production house that started in 2005 evolved later into a large animation network based on social media and multi-platform devices.

Wael’s academic background in architecture has no relation to his current work which is a native-born online entertainment network that would serve Arab users wherever they are. But, isn’t this the case with most Arabs involved in creativity? It usually starts out of passion not academia. Besides, this kind of study is lacking in the Arab world.

Kharabeesh started by doing short clips that can be streamed on mobiles (Multimedia Messaging Service known as MMS). Then smart phones hit the market and Wi-Fi connectivity was getting better so they came to think of producing short animations.

The initial plan was to produce a digital funny show that can be sold to websites, media portals and also mobile suppliers. The content available back then on the web was either ripped from TV or English content, originally from the United States, but, there was limited digital Arabic content despite the high demand.

So the idea was to produce the content and supply TV channels and mobile suppliers and they would be attractive since the animations would have a socio-political taste in a provocative tone that expresses the youth breaking any taboos or red lines.

However, the interest expressed by TV channels in Kharabeesh’s content particularly in Jordan and Saudi Arabia, did not mean they accept the content as it is. The channels asked to put some red lines that are not to be crossed. “They wanted to please the advertisers, but had we complied, we wouldn’t have done something unique”, Wael explains.

At one point, the team questioned their content and were not sure they’re doing something that can be successful. But, since traditional media won’t take their work as it is, they decided to take it to the web. Content would be available for more than 300 million Arabs and social animation proved to be the new age of entertainment.

Then came the Arab revolutions which placed Kharabeesh in another category. Kharabeesh produced a video on the ousted Tunisian President, Ben Ali, on January 22nd and it got more than a million view, it was their biggest record.

“Traditional media wouldn’t agree to show something like that in a million years but we found the alternative and it was all ours”, Wael adds. Arab revolutions changed perceptions of people about the Internet and as a result, the Arab world is living now the Internet renaissance era.

Competition for Kharabeesh doesn’t come from traditional media even if they have an online presence which Wael calls “immigrant online networks”. But, it’s the native-born online networks that compete together like Telfaz11 of Saudi Arabia, Gomhoriya TV of Egypt and Aramram TV of Jordan.

The desired impact for Kharabeesh is to have teams all over the Arab world producing animations in all Arabic dialects telling Arab tales. Kharabeesh already has teams in Egypt, Tunisia and Dubai.

The Jordanian brand wants to prove that an online entertainment industry is a working business model and that it can attract advertisers. They have tried to enter the Gulf, US and European markets but so far, they had failures. “Failure has been part of our life but what we’re doing is experiment, fail and then develop. No one plans for success”, Wael says.

Kharabeesh has been going after partnerships seeking monetization channels but they were failures also. Yet, they were able to create success stories out of failures  and that’s what counts. The failure to sell their content in their very beginnings to traditional media turned them to an online business that depends on low-cost production, wowness of short snappy stories and the creativity in implementation. This combination now became the trending style of online Arab entertainment or the school of thought.

Initial costs were paid by the team and Kharabeesh stayed for a while self-funded without generating any income. They even went for a pay per service model doing animations and graphic designs for events but they stopped believing they are getting far from their goals. Now, their revenue model includes advertisements, licenses, sponsors and games.

Kharabeesh today produces between 40-50 videos per month aiming for doubling this number soon. What’s next? Kharabeesh is now preparing to kick off an online kids animation channel and another for political cartoons which is expected to attract a wide audience given the political developments in the Arab world.

Get to know more from Wael here

 —

This research was done based on Skype calls with founders of and co-founders of booming digital media start-ups in the Arab world. Interviews were conducted in February and March 2012 originally for Tow Knight Center for Entrepreneurial Journalism at City University of New York (CUNY).

Advertisements

Leave a Comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s